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Alberta parents raise concerns about removal of mask mandate for school children

Students arrive to on the first day to the newly-rebuilt Addison Mizner School in Boca Raton, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Palm Beach County Schools opened the school year with a masking requirement with an opt-out option. ...SOUTH FLORIDA OUT; NO MAGS; NO SALES; NO INTERNET; NO TV...

After two years of going to school with their faces covered, K-12 students in Alberta now have the option to ditch their masks.

Although many have embraced the step towards the removal of masking requirements, others are still anxious and worried over what has become a contested and political issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s very little information about how the schools are doing, so maybe it’ll be fine,” said Emma Stephens, a mother of two from Lethbridge.

“I don’t personally believe it’ll be fine because when you take your mitigation measures off, then the cases go up.

“So the issue now is there’s going to be some kids who feel differently than we do, families feel differently than we do and they won’t want to wear masks and then that causes tension for my kids.”

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The government announced last Monday that students in grade school in Alberta would not be required to wear masks, effectively lifting the mask mandates in K-12 schools. Also, children under 12 are no longer required to wear masks in any setting.

Under the province-wide mask mandate set to lift on Mar. 1, teachers will also have the option of not wearing a mask when school requirements like cohorting, will also end.

Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange said in a letter posted on her Twitter account last week that the number of schools that have shifted to at-home learning over the last few weeks due to COVID-19 outbreaks have decreased and continue to do so.

“At the peak of the fifth wave, there were 29 schools that were shifted to at-home learning, and today, only seven of the over 2,500-plus schools in our province remain learning at home.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has said the rapid spread COVID-19 spread has not decreased entirely and it is exploring legal options.

Trisha Estabrooks, chair of Edmonton Public Schools, said the district was planning to tell parents masks are still encouraged. On Monday afternoon, some students planned to walk out of classes early and protest in support of teachers and healthcare workers.

Brian Wawrow of Edmonton said his kids and their friends will be in school Monday with their masks on.

“They all feel like they’re gonna just be as safe as they possibly can and use their own common sense to keep protecting themselves and the kids that they’re around,” he said.

“My biggest fear’s my dad’s 89. So if my kid gives me COVID, then I can’t go see my dad. My wife’s parents are like 70. The healthcare system has been battered.”

– With files from the Canadian Press